Brisbane, Geelong and Mooloolaba. 2017 Has already been busier than 2016. My wife and I relocated to Brisbane in January. We came out of one of the wettest South Australian years on record and straight into the middle of a Queensland heat wave. The heat wasn't as much of an adjustment compared to the humidity. I think I've got a small taste of what Kona will be like.
The heat acclimation process took a drastic step backwards when I travelled south to Geelong for the 70.3. I don't imagine that there are many countries with weather as varied as Australia. Brisbane had been over forty degrees centigrade in the weeks prior to the race while Geelong was struggling to top fourteen. I arrived well prepared and keen to compete at an event I'd never done. The forty strong male professional contingent was one of the best assembled in Australia. If last year was about training then this year is about gaining racing experience. Geelong was perfect for this. The beach start was chaotic and the pace incredibly high from the get go. The field split up quickly and I led the second chase pack out of the water a minute behind the main group. I knew the athletes around me and figured we would have a chance at catching the group ahead. Five kilometres later we were riding well. At this point, I started struggling with a painfully tight back.
Be it the cold or an underlying issue, I wasn't sure. This effectively ended my race as I simply couldn't push the pedals with any power. The weather had closed in with rain and wind making for miserable conditions. I rode to what my body would allow simply for the practice of riding in such conditions. I intended to put in a strong run after a fairly pedestrian bike leg. This too was cut short by my back. A few steps out of transition and it really started playing up. I'm not keen on failing to finish but I'd clearly done enough damage to the body. Reflecting on the race, it was hard to be disappointed in the performance. I hadn't swum as well as I'd have liked (I think we can all say this at times) but I had put myself in a good position to experience a proper race dynamic on the bike. That had been the goal, it was just the body that let me down.
Fast forwarding three weeks and many physio appointments brought me to the start line of the Mooloolaba Olympic Distance Triathlon. Many people say that seeing the Hawaiian Ironman on TV motivated them to take up triathlon. I never saw Kona on TV. What I did see was racing in Mooloolaba. As a runner with a passing interest in endurance sports, Mooloolaba seemed synonymous with triathlon. It felt special to be racing there as a professional. The line up was impressive and I was looking forward to being involved in a good race. The non-wetsuit swim was a nice change and I thoroughly enjoyed the warmer water. After settling in behind a group early on, I moved through the field to close a few gaps. It was the most positive I've been midway through the swim leg. Ironically, I was a lot further down the field than I realised, but what I didn't know couldn't upset me.
I exited the water in front of a group of athletes that thinned down to three as we raced through transition. I rarely ride with others but now I had the opportunity to do so. Our group of three worked reasonably well until the backend of the ride. I enjoyed the bike course but it was a fairly uneventful forty kilometres where the only goal was to limit the time gaps to those ahead. I came into transition with a little too much focus on getting out. I started to exit before having to return for my race belt. Potential disqualification avoided, I set off on the run leg in twelfth. My lack of research on the run course made the discovery of sizeable hills a shock. I prefer a tough course but I would have happily settled for fast one this time. I ran with the sole goal of catching the next person up the road. With one kilometre left, I was an agonising fifty metres short of two other competitors. With the error in transition on my mind, I knew I needed to close that gap. A big effort on tired legs in the closing stages allowed me to round out the top five. The podium was limited to former ITU stars and top 3 placegetters in Kona. With those resumes I will happily settle for 5th place.
It is with some relief that I put together a stronger performance in Mooloolaba. The last few races have been difficult. There are many physical aspects of racing that I need to work on, but I enjoyed racing in Mooloolaba, and it is enjoyment that will bring better results.